Learning to Live in the Dissonance

I’ve been struggling lately with a strong desire/compulsion to finish things, to have resolution, to have less on my plate. I need to be able to breathe. I need margin. When I made a list of (almost) everything on my plate a few months ago I realized just how little margin I have in my life and it was overwhelming.

Some of these things on my list will be resolved in the fall, when we will gain time, space (more about that in a later post), and increased financial freedom. Some long-awaited house projects will be finished, our potential pregnancy will be finished (embryo transfer in two weeks), and in many ways we will be able to breathe deeply for the first time in a long time. I can’t wait.

I like finishing things. I like resolution. In music, I love when notes clash and then resolve into harmony. The sound caused by the resolution is even more beautiful because the dissonance existed.

However, there are a few things in my life that may remain unfinished forever and they are largely out of my control. These things are what weigh on me the most.

I’ve lost three friendships in the past four years. Two friends chose to disappear from my life without warning or explanation and I still don’t know why, though not for lack of trying. When I’m reminded of them, I can’t help but wonder what I did wrong, what happened, what’s wrong with me that they would just walk away, and why they won’t talk to me. I truly can’t think of anything that I did to make them walk away. These two walked closely beside us during everything with Tori and then disappeared rather suddenly, and I may never know why.

One friend I lost out of conflict (still unresolved) because she was unwilling to continue to work through it and to believe that my heart and intent were good. I owned up to my thoughtless mistakes, asked for forgiveness, and she still walked away. I’m constantly reminded of this friendship and wish I could go back and undo those mistakes (cue “if I could turn back time…”). In this case, I know why, but I can’t do anything about it.

As I learn more about myself through the lens of the Enneagram, it makes sense why unresolved conflict (especially when it seems to be irrational) bothers me so much and why it is possibly my biggest pet peeve of all, even above grammatical errors.

If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, I highly recommend studying it. It has helped me realize the root of who I am – and helped me put words to my frustrations – and it has shown me how to become more like Jesus despite my numerous flaws. YourEnneagramCoach.com is an excellent Gospel-centered resource.

I am a 1.  I see things, with rare exception, as black and white. There is a right and a wrong – moral relativity is ridiculous to me. I have an inner critic inside of me constantly pointing out how imperfect I am and that drives me to strive for perfection – or at least the appearance of perfection. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the world and myself, which explains so much about me.

Logic comes naturally to me and I’m far more rational than I am emotional. So, when things/people are irrational, I actually can’t understand or process it most of the time. I struggle to see/understand their perspective. This makes life with toddlers extra fun 😉

Side note: this is truly why I realized about twenty-years ago that I would struggle to run for political office – my facial expressions tell all. If someone says something ridiculous or untrue, I can’t hide my reactions well. So, even though I believe I’d make a great legislator because of my strong convictions of right/wrong/justice/improving the world, I would never get elected because I can’t be fake. 

From my perspective, these conflicts need to be resolved because that’s the right thing to do. If something happened, if I did something to hurt them, I want to know so that I can make it right. And what makes this so hard is that I may never have those opportunities.

Without understanding what happened, I automatically assume (as a 1) that I wasn’t good enough, somehow. That I failed them and they decided that I wasn’t worth their friendship. My greatest fear (as a 1) is not being good enough, and that’s why unresolved conflict is so difficult for me – it plays right into my insecurities. 

So, I’m learning to let it go and trust that the Lord is in control. I’m not good at it, but I haven’t contacted any of these people in a very long time, though I made it known that the ball is in their court and if they ever want to resolve these issues, I’m ready and willing. And I truly am. The thought that I possibly hurt these friends in some way is horrible and I want it to be resolved.

Instead, I’m having to learn to live in the dissonance. 

I don’t write any of this for pity – but rather, I hope that it helps someone in some way. If you have conflict in your life, do whatever you can to resolve it. Resolving conflict doesn’t mean that you’re best friends again in all situations, and it may take time, but it at least means that you can be at peace knowing both what happened and that you did your best to bring peace. Life is TOO SHORT for conflicts to remain unresolved with those we love.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

–Romans 12:9-18 (emphasis mine)

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